The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 21, 2013

Water tested after body found in LA hotel tank



LOS ANGELES (AP) — British tourist Michael Baugh and his wife said water had only trickled for days as they brushed their teeth, showered and drank from the taps at the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, but they could not have imagined the disturbing reason.

The body of a Canadian woman was later discovered at the bottom of one of four cisterns on the roof of the historic hotel near Skid Row. The tanks provide water for hotel taps and would have been used by guests for washing and drinking.

"The moment we found out, we felt a bit sick to the stomach, quite literally," Baugh said.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials were expected to release the results of tests on the water on Thursday.

When the body was discovered on Tuesday, they issued a do-not-drink order while a lab analyzes the water, said Terrance Powell, a director coordinating the department's response. The disclosure contradicts a previous police statement that the water had been deemed safe.

Powell said the water was also used for cooking in the hotel; a coffee shop in the hotel would remain closed and has been instructed to sanitize its food equipment before reopening.

"Our biggest concern is going to be fecal contamination because of the body in the water," Powell said. He said the likelihood of contamination is "minimal" given the large amount of water the body was found in, but the department is being extra cautious.

Powell said the hotel hired a water treatment specialist after the department required it to do so to disinfect its plumbing lines.

A call to the hotel was not returned.

The remains of Elisa Lam, 21, were found by a maintenance worker at the 600-room hotel that charges $65 a night after guests complained about the low water pressure.

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